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June 04, 2013

RCS, WebRTC: Slow vs Fast Tech Adoption

In an era of Twitter and instant-repetitive Web reporting, a number of pundits have lost sight of the fact that technology introduction and adoption typically takes place over time, rather than happening overnight. I think RCS is on a slower adoption track while WebRTC is on the fast (and exception) track.

HD voice, one of my focus areas, has definitely been on the slow track. Depending on where you want to start, it's either been fermenting since around the late ‘80s with the introduction of ISDN or ‘kinda-sorta’ got rolling in 2009 with France Telecom and Ericsson's push to promote AMR-WB on 3G networks. HD voice has reached critical mass on cell networks through 3G and upcoming VoLTE deployments, with (finally) some encouraging movement within the broadband world.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a Twitter flurry discussing WebRTC's ability to displace a lot of different moving parts and pieces. Between it and RCS, I believe over-the-top players have a lot to worry about -- like their entire future viability. I got flamed for supporting RCS, due in part because it had "failed" to quickly be adopted and go into production.

WebRTC is a fast-track technology because it simplifies the creation of voice and video communications services by putting everything into the browser. There's little to no fretting with plug-ins, no external apps to constantly update (and support on the backend), and developers can build services around voice and video using HTML rather than using proprietary and complex third-party products.

Fast-track "disruptive" technology events happen every three to five years within a particular field and there's usually a lot of back story bits and pieces that have been brought together to make the event happen. Apple's iPad brought focus and definition to the tablet world, thereby triggering the rest of the world to adapt and evolve. Once WebRTC applications start showing up in production, you'll see a lot of companies rush to adopt and deploy their own solutions.

RCS has had its difficulties with competing standards and a lack of wholehearted enthusiasm among service providers. However, RCS gives service providers the ability to recapture customers using over the top services by providing a carrier-grade experience for a communications client. With RCS installed directly on the phone and phones turning over between 18 to 36 months on average, a carrier can reassert itself into a tighter relationship with the customer - rather than just being a "dumb pipe."

But it will take time. Nobody's going to dump their existing phone or preferred OTT client for RCS overnight. Carriers have nothing to lose and can take the long view to gradually bring customers back into the fold. Patience can build a deeper customer relationship and in this case, slow moving may be better for all involved.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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